Myths and Facts about ASTA/AAE
The Arkansas State Teachers Association (ASTA) is a state affiliate of the Association of American Educators (AAE). ASTA/AAE often hears myths about who we are and what we provide. This document was created to tell you the facts and to dispel those myths.
Teachers, if you come across this type of misinformation in your district, please share these fact pages with your colleagues.
Myth: “ASTA/AAE only offers membership to certified teachers.” FALSE.
Fact: ASTA/AAE is proud to offer memberships to all school employees: certified, non-certified and classified.
Myth: “ASTA/AAE has no legislative agenda.” FALSE.
Fact: ASTA/AAE's legislative work at the state and national level is focused only on educational issues and what impacts education, educators and students. We are incorporated as a professional trade association, not a lobbying organization. We survey our members about issues that affect education and deliver those results to our legislators and to the public. We do not take a stand on any issue without the majority of our membership's concurrence. Our “agenda” is to promote what is best for students.
Myth: “ASTA/AAE is anti-union and out to destroy public education.” FALSE.
Fact: When did unionism become synonymous with public education? If one objects to a labor union's militant tactics or partisan politics, does that mean one is out to destroy public education? ASTA/AAE believes our organization is beneficial to public education. We are not out to destroy it, which is evidenced by the fact that over 90 percent of our members are public school teachers.
Does the NEA really believe that the distinguished and respected public school educators on our board are a part of a “conspiracy” to destroy our public schools? The NEA legitimately represents the views of hundreds of thousands of educators in America. However, there are also hundreds of thousands of educators who disagree with many of the NEA's views about what is best for America's children and for America. ASTA/AAE was formed to give those educators an opportunity to share differing views. Because we disagree with the NEA on some issues, does that mean we're anti-public education? Absolutely not. In fact, we believe it is the monopolistic vise-grip of the NEA and AFT that is squeezing the life out of public education. Alternative ideas suggesting how to reform our schools and alternative organizations representing a broader spectrum of teachers views will, in our opinion, help save public education.
Myth: “ASTA/AAE have just a few employees who can't adequately represent their members.” FALSE.
Fact: We are certainly no bloated bureaucracy. However, we have sufficient staff in Washington, D.C., and in Arkansas to assist our members with legal and employment issues. We have cases that open every day because we have members in all 50 states that need our guaranteed services. We add experienced staff members as needed.
Myth: “ASTA/AAE provides only cheap liability insurance and no legal assistance.” FALSE.
Fact: ASTA/AAE provides both legal assistance and liability insurance. ASTA/AAE members have free access to ASTA/AAE's attorney referral network or they may prefer to seek out legal representation of their own choosing instead of having to accept a predetermined legal advisor. ASTA/AAE's attorneys bill our insurance provider—not you, the individual teacher—for services covered under ASTA/AAE's plan. In instances when you choose to use your own attorney, he or she will be reimbursed for services rendered up to the limits specified in the policy. And our liability insurance is not cheap either! ASTA/AAE's in-dues policy costs us $40 per member. NEA's policy costs the NEA about $2 per member (according to an on the record comment by former NEA president, Reg Weaver). Yet ASTA/AAE dues are $16.50 per month, compared to NEA's combined local, state, and national dues which average close to $60 per month. If teachers are sticking with the NEA just because the NEA offers liability insurance, they are paying hundreds of dollars more per year than they need to. For an eye-opening report on where some of NEA's dues are spent, click here.
Unlike the NEA, which is infamous for being over-staffed with highly paid employees, ASTA/AAE maintains a lean operation that is sensitive to our members' desires and needs. Our dues structure allows us to provide exactly what our members tell us they want and need most—and that does not include contributions to political parties.
Myth: “ASTA/AAE is funded by at least one organization that opposes the rights of public school employees, and they are anti-bargaining.” FALSE.
Fact: ASTA/AAE has never received funding from organizations that “oppose the rights of public school employees.” As a professional educators' association, we do support the rights of teachers, but our members are more concerned about the right of our to a good education than they are with just their own benefits. We do not oppose bargaining; we simply are not a bargaining agent. This country doesn't need another organized labor union for teachers. The fact that we do not support strikes is offsetting to the union leaders who believe the threat of strikes is a necessary component of bargaining. Yet, they ignore the fact that in right-to-work states where strikes are illegal, teacher groups have learned how to negotiate as colleagues rather than adversaries. We are, however, anti-exclusive representation, anti-forced dues, and anti-monopoly bargaining.
Myth: “ASTA/AAE promises a lot but doesn't deliver.” FALSE.
Fact: We deliver exactly what we promise and what our members tell us they want—the opportunity to be associated with other professionals in the field, a chance to have their opinions heard, and the peace of mind that affordable group insurance provides. We also provide courteous and professional support if a member needs assistance or whenever a workplace problem arises. We certainly do not provide all the bells and whistles the huge unions provide. However, if in the future our members tell us they want those things, we can certainly increase our dues and provide them. Ironically, teachers who have left the unions tell us that their dues were going for a lot of things they didn't need or want. And there is one other promise we intend to keep— we will not use our members' dues to contribute to, or campaign for, political candidates or political parties! Our focus is on supporting educators and promoting quality education.
Myth: “ASTA/AAE advertises that they offer $2 million in liability insurance coverage. What they don't tell you is that this is an aggregate amount, not the $1 million per member of NEA coverage.” FALSE.
Fact: ASTA/AAE has no aggregate amount for the association. Each and every professional category member of ASTA/AAE is insured for $2 million—per member, per occurrence, annually. The union continues to spread this false information about our liability policy. If union leaders do not know how to read an insurance policy, shame on them. If they do know how to read an insurance policy and continue to misrepresent the facts, shame on them.
Myth: “ASTA/AAE is funded by ultra-right billionaires.” FALSE.
Fact: ASTA/AAE is primarily funded through membership dues. However, the AAE Foundation receives donations from a variety of charitable organizations that want teachers to have choices in professional representation. That's no secret! Our foundation donors aren't happy with the status quo in education and believe AAE can help bring a new voice for teachers to the table. Some of our donors have given to causes that other teacher organizations don't like, but ask yourself, how many times have other teacher organizations supported causes with which you disagree?
Myth: “AAE and its affiliates (e.g. ASTA) have lower membership dues, but you'll have a difficult time getting them to show you where your money goes.” FALSE.
Fact: It's pretty obvious where our money goes! It goes to provide the services and benefits our members tell us they want. We definitely have lower dues and better services because we do not give money to political causes or candidates. ASTA/AAE annual dues are only $16.50 per month or $198 per year. ASTA/AAE insurance costs about $40 per member, the remainder of our $198 in annual dues covers legal services, staff and overhead costs. In fact, if you or a colleague joined the union primarily for liability coverage, you are paying far more than you need to. Unlike the union, ASTA/AAE's job protection services and liability coverage are guaranteed – even for new teachers! Since the NEA spends less than $3 per member for their liability insurance, you might want to ask them to “show you where their money goes.”
If you have questions or concerns about anything not mentioned here, please do not hesitate to contact the ASTA office toll-free at 877-742-2782 and we will be more than glad to assist you.